Fascinated by the diversity of faces found in Southeast Asia, artist Chris Cole has spent the last two decades immortalising Phnom Penh and Bangkok’s notorious nightscapes. Marissa Carruthers catches up with him ahead of his latest exhibition.
“I’m not a moralist, I’m not glamourising sex tourism,” says artist Chris Cole, who originally hails from the US. “I’m showing real Cambodian girls with real lives. I don’t think I degenerate the women, I show them in a story. There’s a subtext there and that gives a certain poignancy.”
Cole’s latest exhibition features his signature style: vivid colours portray an array of almost demonic faces, ogre-like figures towering over women and distorted late-night scenes featuring the sex workers that dot pockets of Phnom Penh.
As a graduate of the UK National Film School, Cole spent 25 years working in the film industry on big budget hits, including Superman, Chaplin and LA Story.
His last film was Cutthroat Island, which was filmed in southern Thailand and initally introduced him to Southeast Asia – a place he continued to return to until about 15 years ago when he bought a small condo in Bangkok as a base to explore the rest of the region.
Having always had an interest in art and drawing – with an artistic streak running through his family from his grandmother to aunt and mother – Cole became fascinated by the faces he encountered.
Read Marissa Carruther’s complete interview with Chris Cole on AsiaLIFE Magazine.
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